The Waning Beijing Consensus

Joseph Sternberg | 25 June 2014 | Wall Street Journal

In Hong Kong, political leaders are telling businesses to worry about local citizens’ demands for greater democracy. In Thailand, in contrast, there are signs that businesses are starting to wish they had democracy back after a military coup unseated an elected government last month. Meanwhile, businesses in Japan and India have some reason to cheer cautiously as voters have brought to office politicians of more or less reformist stripes.

These are interesting days for those who remember the time not so long ago when there was a “Beijing consensus” that authoritarian political leadership produced better economic results. In that era, the unelected kleptocrats in China delivered consistently high growth figures while the softer technocrats of Hong Kong maintained stability and positive nonintervention. Democracies produced either populism (Thailand) or paralysis (India and Japan).

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